With more than 60 self-reflection activities, the Way app will help you re-evaluate how you eat and move and shift both in a way that feels best for you.
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Woman with cell phone at breakfast looking at Way Health mindfulness app
Credit: Martí Sans / Stocksy

Whether you realize it or not, diet culture has likely influenced how you view food and your body. As a kid, you may have seen your parents eat sweets solely after exercising because they "earned" it. The magazines you read as a teen may have told you that a growling stomach is just a sign that you should chug some water — not that you're actually hungry. And the food packages you currently see on supermarket shelves call out their "clean" ingredients and lack of "processing."

"Diet culture is something that you're born into — you don't get to opt into it," says Abby Chan, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and the co-owner of EVOLVE Flagstaff in Arizona. "I think it's really hard to go against the grain and go against everything you've ever been taught and told."

That's where Way, a newly launched mindfulness app that sets out to help you find peace in your relationship with food and your body, comes in. To ensure it fulfills that goal, the app was created with the help of anti-diet registered dietitians, intuitive eating counselors, and non-diet personal trainers. "We are anti-restrictive diet — we're here to help you find your way of living," says Bentley Adams, Way's co-founder and CEO.

The Way App, Explained

You can think of Way much like an interactive journal that helps you break down how you feel about food and your body, how those feelings currently serve you, and how you can shift them for the better, says Clara Nosek, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist in Modesto, California and Way partner. "If Headspace and Buzzfeed quizzes had a baby, it would be this app," she adds.

Currently, the app offers 67 "sessions" or self-reflection activities that allow you to explore why you eat, move, and think about your body a particular way. These sessions are divided up into three "pathways" — Emotional Eats, Body Feels, and Mindful Shifts. In the Emotional Eats pathway, specifically, you'll reflect on your food "rules" (think: you have to eat everything on your plate, even if you're full) and the foods that excite you, among other topics. The Body Feels pathway will challenge you to consider how certain foods make you feel mentally and physically and also dives into the differences between movement and exercise. 

The Mindful Shifts pathway, on the other hand, centers on topics such as self-talk, non-judgment of others, and gratefulness. "It's really looking at how to reverse diet culture and the 'perfect' body image that's surrounding you constantly, [which] becomes a barrier to having a good relationship with food and your body," says Adams. One session, for example, asks you to think about one part of your body you do like and then incorporate it into your daily routine (i.e. saying something positive about yourself when you look in the mirror). "By doing that one thing every day, it changes the way you orient with the rest of your body and the rest of your thought patterns," he adds.

But change doesn't happen overnight. That's why the Way app allows you to work through only three sessions each day, says Chan, who's also a Way partner. "I think a lot of times when people dive into wanting to change their relationship with food, they want to consume everything at once, and then it gets really washed-out and you don't have time to process it and allow it to sink in," she explains. Once you hit your daily limit, you might be more likely to spend some time reflecting on the sessions and how you can apply your learnings to your daily life, says Chan.

"The focus here is the long game: How can we facilitate lasting change and meaningful shifts in app users' mindsets [and] empower them to make choices for themselves truly, as opposed to…the way society dictates," adds Nosek. That said, Way isn't meant to replace registered dietitians or other health professionals who can assist in healing your relationship with food and your body, but rather help you kick off your journey, she explains. "I think it's a really great stepping stone for people who are looking to move away from that very diet-centered, very weight-normative approach to their health and their relationship with food," says Nosek.

Way Health App Screenshots
Credit: Courtesy of Way Health

The Impact of the Way App

By ditching the typical meal tracking and calorie counting features and instead encouraging introspection, Way is shaking up the "healthy eating" app category. "This is the only app that isn't giving you a prescription that you need to eat X amount per day and you need to move X amount per day in order to 'earn' your food," says Chan. "[Way] actually asks you to inquire and reflect and make a mindful shift. I think that's going to be a huge change for a lot of people who are used to logging everything." 

This break from the status quo is intentional. In fact, Adams says he's hoping Way "flips the restrictive diet industry on its head." "It needs to be flipped — it's a threat to humanity and I will say that unequivocally."

The reason: Dieting is harmful both mentally and physically, says Chan. Weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting) is linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as depressive symptoms, research shows. "If you're always being told that your body is 'wrong' — when you really don't have control over what it looks like, what it's going to do, or how it's going to respond to these diets — it can be really harmful. [You'll] always feel like you're not fitting in and always be trying to keep up with that," says Chan. "That's the beauty of Way — you're looking at how do you start to accept this amazing body that you're given."

With its $6.99/month subscription price, Way also serves as an affordable, approachable tool to start making these perspective shifts. "Finding a dietitian, a wellness coach, or an intuitive eating counselor can be costly," says Nosek. "The app, at its price point, can make exploring the anti-diet space, exploring where your food rules come from, and exploring introspectively your relationship to your body and food more accessible to a lot more people."

And to Adams, creating a low-stakes space for instrospection — and diet culture unlearning — is the ultimate goal. "What I believe Way does and will continue to do is create a safe, non-judgmental environment for people to go through self-exploration," says Adams. "...You're never going to step on a scale in Way, you're never going to count a calorie, you're never going to track a macro or a micro. Nobody's going to judge you for anything that you say. I think that's a big part of how we create a space that ultimately helps people not only create a healthy relationship with food and their body but also their mental health."